Colorado Avalanche Tailgating

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Colorado Avalanche Tailgating

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Colorado Avalanche Tailgating

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The Colorado Avalanche are a professional ice hockey franchise based in Denver,Colorado. They are members of the Central Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League. Their home arena is the Pepsi Center. Their current head coach is Patrick Roy, and their general manager is Greg Sherman.

The Avalanche were founded in 1972 as the Quebec Nordiques within the rivalWorld Hockey Association. The Nordiques became members of the NHL in 1979 with the NHL–WHA merger. Following the 1994-95 season, the Nordiques were sold to the COMSAT Entertainment Group of Denver and relocated there, where they were renamed the Avalanche. In their first year in Denver, the Avs won the Pacific Division and went on to sweep the Florida Panthers in the Finals, becoming the first NHL team to win the Stanley Cup in the season following a relocation. Among teams in the four major American professional sports leagues, only the National Football League‘s Washington Redskins have also accomplished the feat. This was the first major professional sports championship a Denver-based team would bring to the city. In the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals, the Avalanche defeated the New Jersey Devils 4–3 to win their second and most recent championship. Coincidentally, the Devils had preceded the Avalanche in Denver; they were called the Colorado Rockies.

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The Avalanche have won eight division titles and qualified for the playoffs in each of their first ten seasons in Denver; this streak ended in 2007.[1]

Franchise history[edit source | editbeta]

Quebec Nordiques (1972–95)[edit source | editbeta]

Main article: Quebec Nordiques

The Quebec Nordiques were one of the World Hockey Association’s original teams when the league began play in 1972. Though first awarded to a group in San Francisco, the team quickly moved to Quebec City when the California deal soured because of financial and arena problems.[2] During their seven WHA seasons, the Nordiques won the Avco World Trophy once, in 1977 and lost the finals once, in 1975.[3] In 1979, the franchise entered the NHL, along with the WHA’s Edmonton OilersHartford Whalers, and Winnipeg Jets.[4]

After making the postseason for seven consecutive years, from 1981 to 1987, the Nordiques became one of the worst teams in the league: from 1987–88 to 1991–92, the team finished last in their division every season and three times had the worst record of the league.[5] As a result, the team earned three consecutive first overall draft picks, used to select Mats Sundin (1989), Owen Nolan (1990) and Eric Lindros (1991),.[6][7] Lindros made it clear he did not wish to play for the Nordiques,[8] to the extent that he did not wear the team’s jersey for the press photographs, only holding it when it was presented to him.[9] On advice from his mother, he refused to sign a contract and began a holdout that lasted over a year. On June 30, 1992, he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for five players, the rights to Swedish prospect Peter Forsberg, two first-round draft picks, and US$15 million.[10] In hindsight, the Lindros trade is seen as one of the most one-sided deals in sports history,[11] and a major foundation for the Nordiques/Avalanche franchise successes over the next decade.[12] In the first season after the trade, 1992–93, the Nordiques reached the playoffs for the first time in six years. Two years later, they won the Northeast Division and had the second best regular season record of the league.

While the team experienced on-ice success, it struggled financially. Quebec City was by far the smallest market in the league,[13] and the second-smallest to host a team in the four major sports. The changing financial environment in the NHL made things even more difficult, and in 1995 team owner Marcel Aubut asked for a bailout from Quebec’s provincial government[14] as well as a new publicly funded arena.[13] The bailout fell through and Aubut subsequently sold the team to COMSAT Entertainment Group of Denver, which already owned the NBA’s Denver Nuggets.[15] In May 1995, the COMSAT Entertainment Group announced an agreement in principle to purchase the team.[16] The deal became official on July 1, 1995, and 12,000 season tickets were sold in the 37 days after the announcement of the move to Denver.[16] The franchise was presented as the Colorado Avalanche on August 10, 1995.[16]

Colorado Avalanche (since 1995)[edit source | editbeta]

Goaltender Patrick Roy, the second most winning net minder in the NHL (551 wins), played for the Avalanche from 1995–2003.

First year, First Cup 1995-96[edit source | editbeta]

After buying the team, COMSAT organized its Denver sports franchises under a separate subsidiary, Ascent Entertainment Group Inc., which went public in 1995, with 80% of its stock bought by COMSAT and the other 20% available on NASDAQ.[17] The Colorado Avalanche played their first game in the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver (where the Denver Nuggets once played) on October 6, 1995, winning 3–2 against the Detroit Red Wings.[18] Led by captain Joe Sakic, forward Peter Forsberg, and defenseman Adam Footeon the ice and Pierre Lacroix as the general manager and Marc Crawford as the head coach, the Avalanche became stronger when All-Star Montreal Canadiens goalie Patrick Roy joined the team. Feeling humiliated for being left in the net after having let in nine goals in 26 shots during a Canadiens game against the Red Wings, Roy joined the Avalanche on December 6, 1995, together with ex-Montreal captain Mike Keane in a trade for Jocelyn ThibaultMartin Rucinsky and Andrei Kovalenko.[19] Roy would prove a pivotal addition for Colorado in the years to come.

The Avalanche finished the regular season with a 47–25–10 record for 104 points, won thePacific Division and finished second in the Western Conference. Colorado progressed to the playoffs, defeating the Vancouver Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks in the first two rounds, both in six games and the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Detroit Red Wings in theWestern Conference Finals in six games as well. In the Stanley Cup Finals, the Avalanche met the Florida Panthers, who were also in their first Finals. The Avalanche swept the series 4–0. In Game 4, during the third overtime and after more than 100 minutes of play with no goals, defenseman Uwe Krupp scored to claim the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.[20] Joe Sakic was the playoff’s scoring leader with 34 points (18 goals and 16 assists)[21] and won the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player to his team during the playoffs. The 1995-96 Cup was the first major professional championship won by a Denver team and the Avalanche are the only team (expansion or brand new) in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup their first season after a relocation, and only the second team to win a championship their first season after a relocation in any of the four major North American sports leagues, following the Washington Redskins of the NFL. They also became the second team from the WHA to win the Cup.[16] With the Cup win, Russians Alexei Gusarov and Valeri Kamensky and Swede Peter Forsberg became members of the Triple Gold Club, the exclusive group of ice hockey players who have won Olympic goldWorld Championship gold, and the Stanley Cup.[22]

Early Success 1996-2000[edit source | editbeta]

In 1996–97, Colorado won the Pacific Division, as well as the Presidents’ Trophy for finishing the regular season with the best record in the league: 49–24–9 for 107 points. The team was also the league’s best scoring with an average of 3.38 goals scored per game. The Avalanche met the two lowest seeds of the Western Conference in the first two rounds of the playoffs: the Chicago Blackhawks and theEdmonton Oilers, and defeated them in six games and five games, respectively. During a rematch of the previous year Western Conference Finals, the Avalanche lost to the Detroit Red Wings in six games. Detroit went on to sweep the Stanley Cup Finals just as the Avalanche had done the year before. Sandis Ozolinsh was elected for the league’s first all-star team at the end of the season.

As a free agent during the summer of 1997, Joe Sakic signed a three year, $21 million offer sheet with the New York Rangers. Under the collective bargaining agreement at the time, the Avalanche had one week to match the Rangers’ offer or let go of Sakic. Colorado would match the offer,[23] which instigated a salary raise for NHL players.[24]

In the following season, Colorado won the Pacific Division with a 39–26–17 record for 95 points. The Avalanche sent the largest delegation of the NHL to the 1998 Winter Olympics ice hockey tournament in Nagano, Japan: 10 players representing seven countries and coach Marc Crawford for Canada.[25] Milan Hejduk won the Gold Medal for Czech Republic, Alexei Gusarov and Valeri Kamensky got the Silver Medal for Russia and Jari Kurri won the Bronze Medal for Finland.[26] Colorado lost in the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Edmonton Oilers in seven games, after having led the series 3–1. Peter Forsberg was the league’s second highest scorer in the regular season with 91 points (25 goals and 66 assists) and was elected for the league’s first all star team. After the end of the season, head coach Marc Crawford rejected the team’s offer of a two-year deal.[27] Bob Hartley was hired to the head coach position in June 1998.

In 1998–99, with the addition of the Nashville Predators to the league, the NHL realigned their divisions and the Colorado Avalanche were put in the new Northwest Division. Despite a slow 2–6–1 start, Colorado finished with a 44–28–10 record for 98 points, won the Northwest Division and finished second in the Western Conference. Between January 10 and February 7, the Avalanche had their longest winning streak ever with 12 games.[26] After defeating both the San Jose Sharks and the Detroit Red Wings in six games in the first two rounds, Colorado met the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Finals, where they lost in seven games. Peter Forsberg, the playoffs leading scorer with 24 points (8 goals and 16 assists),[21] was again elected to the league’s first all-star team and Chris Drury won the Calder Memorial Trophy for the best rookie of the season. Together with Milan Hejduk, both were elected for the NHL All-Rookie Team at the end of the season.

The Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado, the venue for Colorado Avalanche home games since 1999

It was in the 1999–2000 season that the Colorado Avalanche played their first game in the new Pepsi Center that cost 160 million US dollars.[28] Milan Hejduk scored the first goal of a 2–1 victory against the Boston Bruins on October 13, 1999.[29] The Avalanche finished the season with a 42–28–11–1 record for 96 points and won the Northwest Division. Before the playoffs, the Avalanche strengthened their defense for a run towards the Stanley Cup. OnMarch 6, 2000, the Boston Bruins traded future Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque and forward Dave Andreychuk to Colorado for Brian RolstonMartin Grenier,Samuel Påhlsson, and a first-round draft pick. Bourque, who had been a Bruin since 1979, requested a trade to a contender for a chance to win the Stanley Cup.[30] However, and just as the year before, Colorado lost in the Conference Finals against the Dallas Stars in a seven games after beating the Phoenix Coyotes and Detroit Red Wings in five games.

The Avalanche’s success came amid considerable turmoil in the front office. COMSAT’s diversification into sports ownership was proving a drain on the company. In particular, cost overruns associated with the construction of the Pepsi Center had shareholders up in arms. Finally, in 1997, COMSAT agreed in principle to sell Ascent to Liberty Media.[17] However, Liberty was not interested in sports ownership at the time (though it has since bought the Atlanta Braves), and made the deal contingent upon Ascent selling the Avalanche and Nuggets.[31]

After almost two years, Ascent sold the Avalanche and Nuggets to Wal-Mart heirs Bill and Nancy Laurie for $400 million. However, a group of Ascent shareholders sued, claiming that the sale price was several million dollars too low. Ascent then agreed to sell the Avalanche and Nuggets to Denver banking tycoon Donald Sturm for $461 million.[32]

However, a new wrinkle appeared when the city of Denver refused to transfer the parcel of land on which the Pepsi Center stood unless Sturm promised to keep the Avalanche and Nuggets in Denver for at least 25 years. Sturm had made his bid in his own name, and the city wanted to protect itself in case Sturm either died or sold the teams before the 25 years ran out. While Sturm was willing to make a long-term commitment to the city, he wasn’t willing to be held responsible if he died or sold the teams. After negotiations fell apart, Liberty bought all of Ascent, but kept the Nuggets and Avalanche on the market.[33] Finally, in July 2000, the Avalanche, Nuggets and Pepsi Center were finally bought by real estate entrepreneur Stan Kroenke in a $450 million deal.[17] Kroenke is the brother-in-law of the Lauries; his wife Ann is Nancy Laurie’s sister. Liberty retained only a 6.5% stake of the sports franchises. As part of the deal, Kroenke placed the teams into a trust that would ensure the teams will stay in Denver until at least 2025.[33] After the deal, Kroenke organized his sports assets under Kroenke Sports Enterprises.

Second Stanley Cup Title 2000-01[edit source | editbeta]

The 2000–01 season was the best season the team has ever had due to phenomenal play by all-time leading scorer in Avalanche history, Joe Sakic. The Avalanche won the Northwest Division and captured their second Presidents’ Trophy after having finished the regular season with 52–16–10–4 for 118 points. Joe Sakic finished the regular season with 118 points (54 goals and 64 assists), only three behind Jaromir Jagr‘s 121 points. On February 4, 2001, the Colorado Avalanche hosted the 51st NHL All-Star GamePatrick Roy, Ray Bourque, and Joe Sakic played for the North America team, who won 14–12 against the World team, that featured Milan Hejduk and Peter Forsberg. All but Hejduk were part of the starting lineups.[26] Before the playoffs, the Avalanche acquired star defensemanRob Blake and center Steven Reinprecht from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Adam DeadmarshAaron Miller and their first-round 2001 Draft pick.[34] In the playoffs, Colorado swept their Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Vancouver Canucks. In the Western Conference Semifinals, the Avalanche defeated the Los Angeles Kings in seven games, after having wasted a 3–1 lead. After the last game of the series, Peter Forsberg underwent surgery to remove a ruptured spleen and it was announced that he would not play until the following season. The injury was a huge upset for the team; former NHL goaltender Darren Pang considered it “devastating… to the Colorado Avalanche.”[35] The team would overcome Forsberg’s injury; in the Western Conference Finals, Colorado beat the St. Louis Blues 4–1 and progressed to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they faced the defending champion New Jersey Devils. The Avalanche came back from a 3-2 series deficit and won the series 4–3, marking the second year in a row that defending champions lost in the finals, as the Devils themselves defeated the Dallas Stars in the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals. After being handed the Cup fromNHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, captain Joe Sakic immediately turned, and gave it to Ray Bourque, capping off Bourque’s 22-year career with his only championship.[36] Joe Sakic was the playoffs leading scorer with 26 points (13 goals and 13 assists).[21] He won the Hart Memorial Trophy, given to the league’s most valuable player during the regular season, the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player that has shown the best sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with performance in play, the Lester B. Pearson Award and shared the NHL Plus/Minus Award with Patrik Elias of the Devils. Patrick Roy won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs. Shjon Podein was awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for significant humanitarian contributions to his community, namely his work on charitable organizations and his own children foundation.[37] Ray Bourque and Joe Sakic were elected to the league’s first all-star team. Rob Blake was elected to the second all-star team.

Stanley Cup Dryspell 2001-04[edit source | editbeta]

In the 2001–02 season, the team finished the regular season with 99 points from a 45–28–8–1 record and won the Northwest Division. Colorado had the league’s lowest goals conceded: 169, an average of 2.06 per game. The NHL season was interrupted once again for the 2002 Winter Olympics, in Salt Lake CityUtah. The Colorado Avalanche had nine players representing six countries. Canada won the ice hockey tournament and Rob BlakeAdam Foote and Joe Sakic won Gold medals. American Chris Drury got a silver medal.[26]With the win, Blake and Sakic became members of the Triple Gold Club.[22] The Avalanche advanced through the first two rounds of the playoffs winning 4–3 against the Los Angeles Kings and 4–3 against the San Jose Sharks. Patrick Roy had a shutout on the decisive game of each series.[38] The Avalanche made the Western Conference Finals for the fourth consecutive season (and sixth overall in the last seven seasons), meeting the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs for the fifth time in seven years. Colorado had a 3–2 lead after five games, but lost Game 6 at home 2–0 and then the Red Wings won the deciding game at Detroit, 7–0. As in 1997, Detroit went on to win the Stanley CupPeter Forsberg was the playoffs scoring leader with 27 points (9 goals, 18 assists).[21] Patrick Roy won theWilliam M. Jennings Trophy, given to the goaltenders of the team with fewest goals scored against. Roy was elected for the league’s first all-star team, together with Joe Sakic. Rob Blake was elected for the second all-star team.

Avalanche players warming up in 2006

The following season, 2002–03, saw the Avalanche claim the NHL record for most consecutive division titles, nine,[39] breaking the Montreal Canadiens streak of eight, won between 1974–82.[40] The division title came after a bad start by the team, that led to the exit of head coach Bob Hartley, in December.[41] General Manager Pierre Lacroix promoted assistant coach Tony Granato, who had only three months of coaching experience as an assistant, to the head coach position.[42] The team’s playoff spot seemed in doubt at one point, but the Avalanche managed to finish with 105 points, ahead of the Vancouver Canucks by one. The race to the title was exciting, namely the second-to-last game of the season, as the Avalanche needed to win the game to stay in the race, and Milan Hejduk scored with 10 seconds left in overtime to beat Anaheim.[43] The title was guaranteed in the final day of the regular season, when the Avalanche beat the St. Louis Blues 5–2 and the Vancouver Canucks lost against the Los Angeles Kings 2–0.[44] In the Western Conference Quarterfinals, the Avalanche blew a 3–1 series lead over the Minnesota Wild, and lost in overtime in Game 7.[45] Peter Forsberg won the Art Ross Trophy for the leading scorer of the regular season, which he finished with 106 points (29 goals, 77 assists). Forsberg also won the Hart Memorial Trophy for the regular season’s most valuable player and shared the NHL Plus/Minus Award with teammateMilan Hejduk. Hejduk scored 50 goals to win the Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy, awarded annually to the leading goal scorer in the NHL. Forsberg was elected to the league’s first all-star team. Hejduk was elected to the second all-star team.

After that season, Patrick Roy retired and the Avalanche signed star wingers Paul Kariyafrom the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Teemu Selänne from the San Jose Sharks.[46][47] Both failed to live up to the expectations; Kariya spent most of the 2003–04 season injured and Selanne scored only 32 points (16 goals and 16 assists) in 78 games.[48] There were doubts if goalie David Aebischer could perform at the top level the team was used to while having Roy.[49] Having “nine elite players”,[50] “the most talented top six forwards on one team since the days of the Edmonton Oilers[51] was not good enough as the franchise failed to win the Northwest Division title, ending the NHL record streak. The 40–22–13–7 record was good enough for 100 points, one less than the Northwest Division champion Vancouver Canucks. This ended a streak of nine consecutive division titles dating to the team’s last year in Quebec, the most in NHL history.

During a game against the Canucks on March 8, 2004, Canucks player Todd Bertuzzi punched Colorado’s Steve Moore from behind, leaving Moore unconscious. It was said to be retaliation for a hit Moore had delivered to Canucks captain Markus Naslund the month before.[52] Because of the punch and the consequent fall on the ice with Bertuzzi on top of him, and numerous other players from both teams piling on top, Moore sustained three fractured neck vertebrae, among other injuries, that ended his career.[53] Bertuzzi was away from professional hockey for 17 months as a result of suspensions.[54] In Denver, ever since the Moore hit, it has become tradition for the home fans to boo Todd Bertuzzi every time he gains possession of the puck, whenever his team faces the Avalanche at Pepsi Center.

In the playoffs, Colorado won the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Dallas Stars in five games, but lost in the Western Conference Semifinals against the San Jose Sharks in a six games. Joe Sakic became the only Avalanche player ever to be chosen as the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player during the 2004 NHL All-Star Game, when he scored a hat-trick. Sakic was elected for the league’s first all-star team at the end of the season and won the NHL/Sheraton Road Performer Award.[26] After the end of the season, on July 2004, Joel Quenneville was hired for the position of head coach, replacing Tony Granato, who became his assistant.[42]

The 2004–05 NHL season was canceled because of an unresolved lockout. During the lockout, many Avalanche players played in European leagues.[55] David Aebischer returned home with Alex Tanguay to play for Swiss club HC Lugano; Milan Hejduk and Peter Forsberg returned to their former teams in their native countries, HC Pardubice and Modo Hockey. Nine other players from the Avalanche 2003–04 roster played in Europe during the lockout.[55]

New Beginnings 2005-09[edit source | editbeta]

After the 2004–05 NHL lockout and the implementation of a salary cap, the Avalanche were forced to release some of their top players. Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote were lost to free agency to save room in the cap for Joe Sakic and Rob Blake.[56] Although the salary cap was a blow to one of the highest spenders of the league,[57] the Colorado Avalanche finished the 2005–06 regular season with a 43–30–9 record for 95 points, good enough to finish second in the Northwest Division, seven behind the Calgary Flames and tied with the Edmonton Oilers. The season paused in February for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. The Avalanche sent an NHL leading 11 players from eight countries.[58] Finnish Antti Laaksonen got the silver medal, while Ossi Vaananen ended up not playing because of an injury; Czech Milan Hejduk won a bronze medal.[26] In the Western Conference Quarterfinals, Colorado beat the team with the second best record in the Western Conference, the Dallas Stars, in five games. In the Conference Semifinals, the Avalanche were swept for the first time ever, by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The day after the loss, Pierre Lacroix, who had been the General Manager of the franchise since 1994 when they were in Quebec, resigned and Francois Giguere was hired.[59][60] Lacroix remains President of the franchise to this day.[61]

By the beginning of the 2006–07 season Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk were the only two remaining members from the 2000-01 Stanley Cup-winning squad. Joe Sakic was the only player left from the team’s days in Quebec (though Hejduk was drafted by the Nordiques);Paul Stastny, son of Nordiques legend Peter Stastny, also provides a link to the past. Before the previous season’s playoffs, in a move reminiscent of Patrick Roy’s trade, the Avalanche traded goalie David Aebischer for  Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC

Montreal Canadiens’ Vezina Trophy winner goalieJose Theodore.[62] The move would not turn out to be as successful. Theodore posted a 13–15–1 record in 2006-07, with an 89.1 save percentage and 3.26 goals average and his six million US dollars salary became a heavy burden for the Avalanche in the salary cap era.[63] The Avalanche missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993–94, when they were still in Quebec. The team had a 15–2–2 run in the last 19 games of the season to keep their playoffs hopes alive until the penultimate day of the season. A 4–2 loss against theNashville Predators on April 7, with Peter Forsberg assisting the game-winning goal scored by Paul Kariya, knocked Colorado out of the playoff race.[64] The team won the last game of the season against the Calgary Flames the following day and finished fourth in the Northwest Division and ninth in the Western Conference with a 44–31–7 record for 95 points, one less than eighth-seeded Calgary. Still, the result was better than expected by hockey pundits; Sports Illustrated previewed before the start of the season that the Avalanche would finish 13th in the Western Conference.[65] During that last game of the season, Joe Sakic scored a goal and two assists and became the second-oldest player in NHL history to reach 100 points, behind only Gordie Howe, who had 103 points at age 40 in the1968–69 season.[66] During the season, Paul Stastny set an NHL record for longest point streak by a rookie, with 20 games,[67] three more than the previous record, held by Teemu Selanne[68] and Karlis Skrastins set a new NHL record for the longest game streak by a defenseman, with 495 games.[69] Until the Avalanche’s 2006–2007 season, no team in the history of the NHL had ever made it to 95 points without earning a spot in the playoffs.[70] In the Eastern Conference, three teams progressed to the playoffs with fewer than 95 points: the New York Rangers (94), the Tampa Bay Lightning (93), and the New York Islanders (92).

For the 2007–08 season, the Avalanche signed two free agents: defenseman Scott Hannan and left winger Ryan Smyth. These acquisitions filled the team’s needs and were expected to help make an impact in the playoffs.[71] With a 9 to 5 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, December 9, 2007, the Colorado Avalanche gained their 1,000th franchise victory. On February 25, 2008, unrestricted free agent Peter Forsberg signed with the Avalanche for the remainder of the 2007–08 season. A day later, at the trade deadline, they re-acquired popular defenseman Adam Foote from the Columbus Blue Jackets as well as Ruslan Salei from the Florida Panthers. In the Western Conference Quarterfinals the Avalanche beat the Minnesota Wild in six games.[72] In the Western Conference Semifinals the Avalanche were swept[73] by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.[74]

On May 9, 2008, the Colorado Avalanche Organization announced that Joel Quenneville would not return to coach the team next season. Two weeks later, Tony Granato was named head coach of the Avalanche for the second time.

The 2008–09 season was the worst season the Avalanche had since moving to Denver. Posting a record of 32-45-5, finishing 15th in the Western Conference (28th overall), and recording the fewest amount of points since their days in Quebec in ’69. The Avalanche missed the postseason for the second time in three seasons. It would be the first time in Avalanche history the team’s top scorer would score less than 70 points on the season, as Milan Hejduk and Ryan Smyth would register only 59 points each. Captain Joe Sakic played a career low 15 games, notching just two goals and ten assists. The team’s 199 goals was a league low. On April 13, 2009, just one day after the end of the season, the Avalanche relieved Francois Giguere of his general manager duties. Colorado would go on to receive the highest draft pick in Avalanche history, third overall. That pick turned out to be Brampton Battalion star Matt Duchene.

Rebuilding 2009-Present[edit source | editbeta]

In the 2009 off-season, the Avalanche named Greg Sherman the new General Manager and Joe Sacco the new head coach.[75][76] The following month, top scorer Ryan Smyth was traded to the Los Angeles Kings and Joe Sakic, the only team captain the Avs have ever known, retired after 20 seasons in the NHL. The Avs named Adam Foote team captain to replace him. Sakic’s jersey retirement ceremony took place on October 1, 2009, before the season opener at home against the San Jose Sharks in front of a sold out crowd where the Avalanche won 5-2. The Avalanche started the season off strong until the Olympic break. Three Avs played in Vancouver;Paul Stastny for the USA team, Ruslan Salei for Belarus and Peter Budaj for Slovakia.[77] Following the Winter Olympics, the Avs struggled, but clinched a playoff spot with 95 points on the season, a 26 point improvement from the previous year’s effort, and good enough for 8th place in the Western Conference.[78] The Avalanche fell in the Western Conference Quarterfinals to the top-seeded San Jose Sharks in six games.

The 2010 offseason proved limited activity on the Avs’ part. Stan Kroenke bought full ownership in the St. Louis Rams of the NFL in 2010. Since the NFL does not allow its owners to hold majority control of major-league teams in other NFL cities, Kroenke turned over day-to-day control of the Nuggets and Avalanche to his son Josh toward the end of 2010, and must sell his controlling interest in both teams by 2014.[79] After an impressive underdog triumph in making the playoffs in 2010, and Coach Sacco finishing third in Jack Adams Trophy voting, the Avs failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2011. Earning only 68 points in the standings, setting a franchise record for losing and winless streaks after the All-Star break, the Colorado Avalanche have seen their worst season yet since moving to Denver. One point less than their previous worst season in 2009-2010. They finished 29th in the 30-team National Hockey League, besting only their division mates, the Edmonton OilersMatt Duchene set a franchise record as the youngest scoring leader in Quebec/Colorado history with 67 points, sharing the club goals-leader title with David Jones, each with 27 tallies. Former Avs greatPeter Forsberg attempted a comeback in the NHL with Colorado midseason. After 2 games, zero points and compiling a minus 4 rating, Forsberg announced his retirement from professional hockey. Captain Adam Foote also retired after the final game of the season.

In the offseason, Colorado had two first-round picks. Present at the draft, former Avalanche great Joe Sakic served his first duties as new alternate governor and adviser of hockey operations of the club. With their first pick (second overall), they selected Gabriel Landeskog, the young captain of the Kitchener Rangers. Second, they selected defenseman Duncan Siemens 11th overall, a pick acquired from the St. Louis Blues in the controversial trade that sent power-forward Chris Stewart, long time top prospect Kevin Shattenkirk and a second round pick to the Blues in exchange for their first-round pick, veteran Jay McClement and 2006 former first overall pick Erik Johnson. A complete overhaul at the goal tending position sent Peter Budaj to Montreal and Brian Elliott to St. Louis, Elliott having been acquired from Ottawa for Craig Anderson during the team’s downward spiral the season previous. Goalie Semyon Varlamov was dealt to Colorado from the Washington Capitals for a first and second pick, while veteran net minder and former Conn Smythe Trophy winner J.S. Giguere was signed as a free agent in hopes to mentor the young Varlamov. Siemens was sent back to his major junior team, the Saskatoon Blades in camp. Landeskog made the opening night roster against the Detroit Red Wings on October 8, 2011 at Pepsi CenterAdam Deadmarsh was promoted from video/developmental coach to offensive assistant coach after Konowalchuck accepted a job as head coach in the minor league.

Peter Forsberg‘s number 21 became the fourth jersey number retired by the Avs on opening night, a contest Colorado would lose to Detroit 3-0. Colorado redeemed themselves in game two of the season on October 10, 2011 against the 2011 Stanley Cup champs, theBoston Bruins. Varlamov negated all 30 shots registered by Boston and posted the fifth shutout of his career and first win as an Avalanche in the regular season. Milan Hejduk scored the game-winning goal and first goal of the season for the club in a 1-0 victory over the defending champions. In April 2012, The Avs were eliminated from playoff contention and finished 11th place in the Western Conference. Despite a 20 point improvement from last season’s efforts, the team failed to reach the playoffs for the second straight year, the first time the Colorado club would do so in their 17 years playing in Denver.[80] Head coach Joe Sacco signed a two-year contract extension shortly after the end of the season. Stand out rookie Gabriel Landeskog overtook Matt Duchene as the youngest in franchise history to lead the team in goals, scoring 22 in 82 games.

Having resigned most of their free agents, the club wouldn’t see much change in the 2012 off season, with the exception of losing UFAsPeter MuellerJay McClement and Kevin Porter. Colorado would add Greg ZanonJohn Mitchell and high scoring winger P.A. Parenteau to its roster. Gabriel Landeskog, the Avs’ lone representative at the 2012 NHL Awards walked away with the Calder Memorial Trophy joining Chris DruryPeter Forsberg and Peter Stastny for top rookies in franchise history.

On September 4, 2012, Gabriel Landeskog was named the fourth captain of the Avalanche. Former captain Milan Hedjuk relinquished his captaincy a week earlier. At 19 years and 286 days old, Landeskog is the youngest captain in NHL history, being 11 days younger than when Sidney Crosby was named captain at 19 years and 297.

After a disappointing 2012-13 season which saw the Colorado Avalanche finish 15th in the Western Conference and 29th overall in the league, it was announced on April 28, 2013 that head coach Joe Sacco had been relieved of his duties.[81] On May 10, 2013, it was announced that former long-time Avalanche captain and Hockey Hall of Famer Joe Sakic is set to take on an expanded role in Avalanche management, being named Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations, overseeing all matters involving hockey personnel. It was also announced that Josh Kroenke, son of owner Stan Kroenke, is now president of the Colorado Avalanche, succeeding Pierre Lacroix.[82] On May 23, 2013, Patrick Roy returned to the Avalanche as head coach and vice president of hockey operations.[83]

Rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings[edit source | editbeta]

In 1996, the Colorado Avalanche met the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals and won the series 4–2. During Game 6, Red Wings player Kris Draper was checked into the boards face-first by Avalanche player Claude Lemieux.[84] As a result, Draper had to undergo facial reconstructive surgery, and had to have his jaw wired shut for five weeks.[85] The incident marked the beginning of a rivalry often considered one of the most intense in NHL history by the press and fans.[86]

In the following season, in the last regular season meeting between the Avalanche and the Red Wings on March 26, 1997, a brawl known as the Brawl in Hockeytown broke out. The game ended with nine fights, 11 goals, 39 penalties, 148 penalty minutes, one hat-trick (by Valeri Kamensky) and a goalie fight between Stanley Cup champion goalies Patrick Roy and Mike Vernon.[85] Claude Lemieux was one of the players singled out by the Red Wings players. The Red Wings ended up winning the game in overtime 6–5.[85] The teams met again in the Western Conference Finals that season, with the Red Wings emerging victorious and going on to win the Stanley Cup.

The rivalry between the Avalanche and the Red Wings was most intense from 1996 to 2002. During those seven seasons the two teams played five postseason series against each other in the Stanley Cup playoffs, with the Avalanche winning three of the series and the Red Wings winning two of them. During this time frame these two teams combined for a total of five Stanley Cup championships in seven years, the Avalanche winning twice (1995–96 and 2000–01) and the Red Wings winning three times (1996–97, 1997–98, and 2001–02). After 2002 the rivalry between the two teams began to cool.

Attendance sell out streak[edit source | editbeta]

The Colorado Avalanche have the all-time NHL record for the longest consecutive attendance sell outs at home games with 487. The streak began on November 9, 1995, on the Avalanche’s eighth regular season home game during the 1995–96 season, with an attendance of 16,061 at the McNichols Sports Arena versus the Dallas Stars. Almost 11 years later, it ended on October 16, 2006, after a reported attendance of 17,681, which is 326 under the capacity at Pepsi Center, before a game against the Chicago Blackhawks.[87]The Avalanche recorded their 500th home sellout in their 515th game in Denver on January 20, 2007, against the Detroit Red Wings.[88]

Team colors and jersey[edit source | editbeta]

Avalanche’s alternate logo: the foot of a Sasquatch

Logo[edit source | editbeta]

The Colorado Avalanche logo is composed by a burgundy letter A with snow wrapped around, similar to an avalanche, in the shape of the letter C. There is a hockey puck in the lower–right end of the snow and a blue oval on the background.

The team’s alternate logo is the foot of a Sasquatch/Bigfoot and can be seen on the shoulders of the Avalanche’s home and away jerseys. The logo has been used on their jerseys since 1995. In 1997, a sasquatch character named Howler was introduced as the team’s mascot,[89] but has since been replaced by a St. Bernard named Bernie.[90]

Jerseys[edit source | editbeta]

The team colors are burgundy, steel blue, black, silver, and white. For the 2007–08 season, the NHL introduced the new-look Rbk EDGE jerseys. The Avalanche debuted their new version of the Rbk EDGE jerseys on September 12, 2007 at an Avalanche press conference. The design is similar to the previous jerseys, with some added striping.

The road jersey from 1995–2003, which became the team’s home jersey in 2003 when the NHL decided to switch home and road jerseys,[91] is predominantly burgundy and dark blue in color. Along the jersey, there are two black and white zigzag lines, one in the shoulders, the other near the belly. Between them, the jersey is burgundy, outside those lines it is dark blue. Similar lines exist around the neck. The Avalanche logo is in the center of the jersey. On top of the shoulders, there is the alternate logo, one on each side. The away jersey is similar but with different colors. The burgundy part on the home jersey is white on the away jersey, the light blue part is burgundy and the black and white lines became gray and blue.

Funsational

The Avalanche introduced a third jersey during the 2001–02 season.[92] It is predominantly burgundy. “Colorado” is spelled in a diagonal across the jersey where the logo is on the other jerseys. From the belly down, three large horizontal stripes, the first and the last being black and the middle one being white. In the middle of the arms, there are five stripes, black, white and burgundy from the outside inside in both sides. On the shoulders is the primary “A” logo. The third jersey was not worn by the Avalanche for the 2007–08 or the 2008–09 seasons after the NHL switched to the Reebok Edge jerseys. In the 2009-10 season, the Avalanche introduced a new third jersey that was worn for the first time during the November 14th, 2009 home game against the Vancouver Canucks.[93] It is similar to the club’s previous third jersey, but is primarily blue instead of burgundy and features burgundy patches on the shoulders with the “A” logo inside. It also does not have horizontal striping on the bottom. On the arms, there are five stripes, burgundy, white and black from the outside inside in both sides. They are closer to the elbows than the stripes on the previous third jerseys.

Broadcasters[edit source | editbeta]

  • Mike Haynes – TV play-by-play
  • Peter McNab – TV analyst
  • Brian Engblom – TV studio analyst (rotating)
  • Mark Rycroft – TV studio analyst (rotating)
  • Julie Browman – TV studio host (rotating)
  • Kyle Keefe – TV studio host (rotating)
  • Marc Moser – Radio play-by-play/analyst
  • Mark Bertagnolli – Radio studio host
  • Alan Roach – Public address

Seasons and records[edit source | editbeta]

Season-by-season record[edit source | editbeta]

This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the Avalanche. For the full season-by-season history, see List of Colorado Avalanche seasons

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against

Records as of April 10, 2011.

Season GP W L OTL Pts GF GA Finish Playoffs
2008–09 82 32 45 5 69 199 257 5th, Northwest Did not qualify
2009–10 82 43 30 9 95 244 233 2nd, Northwest Lost in Conference Quarterfinals, 2–4 (Sharks)
2010–11 82 30 44 8 68 227 288 4th, Northwest Did not qualify
2011–12 82 41 35 6 88 203 209 3rd, Northwest Did not qualify
2012–13 48 16 25 7 39 116 152 5th, Northwest Did not qualify

Franchise records[edit source | editbeta]

Note: This list does not include records from the Quebec Nordiques (WHA & NHL). Items in bold are NHL records. Records as of April 9, 2007.[26][94][95]

Regular season[edit source | editbeta]

Playoffs[edit source | editbeta]

Team[edit source | editbeta]

  • Most consecutive division titles: 9 (1994–95 – 2002–03)[39]
  • Most points in a season: 118 (2000–01)
  • Most wins in a season: 52 (2000–01)
  • Most goals: 326 (1995–96)
  • Largest margin of victory: 10 (December 12, 1995 vs San Jose (12–2))
  • Longest consecutive attendance sellout: 487 (1995–2006)[87]
  • Most points without making Stanley Cup playoffs: 95 (2006–07)

Franchise scoring leaders[edit source | editbeta]

These are the top-ten point-scorers in franchise (Quebec and Colorado) history. Figures are updated after each completed NHL regular season.

Note: Pos = Position; GP = Games Played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; P/G = Points per game; * = current Avalanche player

Points
Player Pos GP G A Pts P/G
Joe Sakic C 1378 625 1016 1641 1.19
Peter Stastny C 737 380 668 1048 1.42
Michel Goulet LW 813 456 489 945 1.16
Milan Hejduk RW 1020 375 430 805 0.78
Peter Forsberg C 591 217 538 755 1.27
Anton Stastny LW 650 252 384 636 0.98
Dale Hunter C 523 140 318 458 0.88
Valeri Kamensky LW 460 166 248 414 0.90
Alex Tanguay* LW 450 137 263 400 0.89
Paul Stastny* C 467 135 263 398 0.85
Goals
Player Pos G
Joe Sakic C 625
Michel Goulet LW 456
Peter Stastny C 380
Milan Hejduk RW 375
Anton Stastny LW 252
Peter Forsberg C 217
Valeri Kamensky LW 166
Dale Hunter C 140
Adam Deadmarsh LW 138
Alex Tanguay* LW 137
Assists
Player Pos A
Joe Sakic C 1016
Peter Stastny C 668
Peter Forsberg C 538
Michel Goulet LW 489
Milan Hejduk RW 430
Anton Stastny LW 384
Dale Hunter C 318
Alex Tanguay* LW 263
Paul Stastny* C 263
Valeri Kamensky LW 248

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